Dogs in apartments

November 13th, 2013
cr: bigstock, dogs in apartments

Common issues arise in apartment buildings especially when it comes to the keeping of and taking care of pets. Kylie Baracz discovers the practical strategies to make living with dogs in apartments work.

As cities around the nation are growing, city living is becoming the norm. Forget large backyards with dog kennels, Australians are moving into high-rise dwellings.

This gradual move to apartment living has not stopped us from adopting pets however, with more than 63 per cent of Australian households currently owning one (whether it be a cat, dog, goldfish, etc) and of those who do not own a pet, 53 per cent say they would like to in the future.

According to Susie Willis from the Petcare Information & Advisory Service (PIAS), “there is a clear trend in Australia away from the detached home on a quarter-acre block in suburbia to higher density, often high rise, living that is close to employment and amenities such as shops and restaurants. With this, comes a demand from residents for access to all the lifestyle choices they would have in any other living environment.”

Living with your pet

Common problems arise when it comes to the keeping of pets in strata-run communities. Apartments have less room to move, tend to have high balconies and common property to manoeuvre such as landings and lifts.

The PIAS lists the most common problems associated with keeping pets in a higher density environment being: hair shedding, vet bills, noise and barking, difficulty providing enough exercise for the pet, lack of regular access to secure outdoor space, destructive and nuisance behaviour, toileting troubles and a perception that pets become bored and lonely.

Sean Walsh, happy owner of an Aussie Bulldog, made sure to follow the rules when he adopted his fur-baby Cider. “Ash and I have always been dog people, so one of the first things we did after moving in together was to look at getting a dog. We were keen on a Staffy, but the amount of energy these dogs have, and their tendency to bark a lot ruled them out straight away really. Our own research eventually led us to the Aussie Bulldog, and reading more about this breed (which can be hard to find) we came to the conclusion that this breed would hopefully fit our requirements, and vice versa.

“Part of our strata’s process is putting in a request to get permission to have a dog and what breed they are. Knowing a lot of people don’t know much about the breed, we supplied some information to help them make a decision. They’ll deny an application if the breed isn’t suited to a small yard, and/or are normally a very noisy breed. So far, they’ve been extremely happy with how Cider has fitted in,” says Walsh.

Walsh tends to make sure the neighbours and other residents are happy by keeping his courtyard clean as much as possible and give it a hose down each weekend. “We’re aware of the smells that can accumulate when owning a dog. Our neighbours originally didn’t realise we had a dog until he was about six months old. He only barks occasionally now, and his barks are normally only one or two short deep ‘woofs’. No high pitched repetitive barking like some smaller breeds are known for. He doesn’t mind a friendly growl here and there though, but everyone around us knows he’s just saying ‘hello’ as they pass the gate.”

Pet etiquette

It is a sad fact that many medium and high-density dwellings simply don’t permit pets. Not everyone is keen to share their space with a furry invader.

Owners Corporations or executive committees in strata buildings may ask residents who own pets to provide a pet application, which may include information about the pet’s size and breed and a photograph.

According to a City of Sydney representative, “residents should include a reference from their veterinarian and a previous neighbour or landlord to show they are a responsible pet owner. It’s also important to be factual and unemotional as the Owners Corporation needs evidence of your capacity to manage your pet so that it doesn’t cause issues for your neighbours.”

According to City of Sydney, one of the most important aspects of living successfully in apartments with pets is making sure you manage your pet. “To keep your neighbours happy, keep your pet happy,” says the City of Sydney representative. “Always consider your pet’s needs, ensure they receive plenty of exercise and socialise with other pets. The most important thing is to know your building by-laws and abide by them and don’t rely purely on the advice or your real estate agent.”

Walsh agrees, “think about the dog more than what you want. You’re better off finding a dog that will suit your house and lifestyle first, and then everything else will fall into place. I couldn’t think of anything worse than having to give up your new dog because the cute little puppy grew up into a dog that, in hindsight, was never realistically going to work. It’s not fair on the dog.”

Other pet etiquette tips from City of Sydney include:

  • Make sure you abide by the by-laws and are considerate of other residents
  • Just one bad experience can become an ongoing issue for all pet owners, so be considerate in all common areas such as lifts, stairs, hallways, gardens and other common areas
  • Don’t get into a lift with a dog without first asking if your neighbour is happy to share with an animal
  • Take special care around babies and young children, older people and those who are frail or have an injury

For more information

In recognition of the trend towards pets living in higher density environments, the PIAS and Strata Community Australia (SCA) have developed a Pet Application Form and a Pet Keeping Agreement. The forms provide a clear application process and also allow pet owners and Owners Corporations to understand and agree on the conditions for owning a pet in a strata property.

For more information and where you can find the pet application form, visit

Residents can also request a copy of their strata scheme by-laws from their Owners Corporation, executive committee or landlord.

Here are just a few things that can make life with your dog a bit easier - see them now on our DOGSLife Directory

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